Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and from the Indian Ocean islands, Third edition January 2012

AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands
A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

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Third edition January 2012

East Africa News
The proverbial knives are out between fast riser RwandAir and our local quasi national airline Air Uganda, over flights to and from Kigali. The erstwhile code share arrangement, talked about here repeatedly in the past, had been hollowed out when the aim to have an early morning and late evening flight, allowing convenient day trips between Uganda and Rwanda, was well near defeated as Air Uganda, due to operational / scheduling issues and aircraft availability, had to shift their morning flight to Kigali into the later morning and even early afternoon hours.
As a result, and brewing for a while, RwandAir in the end decided to come back with their own morning flights, aimed to connect traffic from Uganda into their network, to Dubai, Johannesburg, Brazzaville, Libreville and Lagos.
Fares, no surprise there, have also come down on the route as a result of having more seats to fill, and at least on RwandAir, now regularly using their B737-500 to Entebbe, passengers also find a premium class product, which even for the 35 minutes flying time is worth it for those who are accustomed to the space and the better service levels.
The Entebbe to Kigali route however has in itself become more competitive, when Qatar Airways announced a major coup, that from end March onwards they will fly between Entebbe and Kigali with full fifth freedom rights, being able to uplift traffic between the two countries, of course offering a glimpse to passengers into their acclaimed 5 star service. Turkish Airlines, though their office has not confirmed this as yet, too is contemplating to extend their flight to Entebbe with the add-on to Kigali by April, bringing yet more flights to the route.
This introduction of new connections, via Turkish with which RwandAir has a very extensive code share arrangement coming into force when the flights commence, and by Qatar Airways, the first Gulf based airline to actually make it to Kigali, has also brought fresh demands for traffic rights by others like Emirates, especially as RwandAir flies 6 times a week from Kigali to Dubai, three times via Mombasa, again with full traffic rights and three times nonstop. Reciprocity claimed is hard to deny and interested readers do well to watch this space in coming weeks as Kigalis Kanombe International Airport continues to make headlines.
Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, the other two biggies from the wider region, will also closely monitor the effect the arrival of new rivals will have in Kigali, from where both uplifted much connecting traffic into their own networks via their respective hubs in Nairobi and Kigali. Qatar Airways, boasting the Airline of the Year 2011 accolade by SkyTrax and of course their 5 star service, is on the prowl and Turkish Airlines has aggressively entered the African market over the past two years, with a big advertising rollout yet service levels on the flights not quite meeting the expectations the commercials raised, yet pricing at levels which gets them passengers anyway.
In closing, let the smaller regional carriers be reminded to keep an eye on what is happening behind them while taking each other on in the battle for the East African skies, or their own patch thereof so that the real biggies are not the final winners taking the spoils while the attention of the others focuses on the lesser battlefield instead of the really big one, where the future market shares and dominance are being decided.


Although several key African airlines have complied with the EU Emission Trading Scheme, and at a very substantial cost that is, AFRAA has now taken up the matter once again with a public statement issued from the associations office in Nairobi, opposing the launch of it and demanding wider consultations between the European Union and affected countries around the world.
This happened after Chinese airlines have vowed not to comply and American airlines have taken the matter to court, paving the way for a potentially crippling trade war between the EU on one side and America and Far Eastern countries on the other side of the divide, with independent analysts and observers estimating that the damage to Europes trading position in the world could take a serious hit.
The uncompromising stand by the EU Commission, now also hiding behind a ruling by the European Court, that they have the right to impose such unilateral schemes, had also not helped as the wisdom of the move continues to be challenged from around the world.
There is in particular emerging talk of punishing the EU as a trade block by increasing trade between the opponents of the scheme and in particular sidelining European attempts to get rich mineral and mining concessions in Africa by giving access to such resources to North American and Asian competitors.
Said a regular source from Nairobi a few days ago: so of course we have to comply because otherwise we can risk huge fines or even have an aircraft detained. But we support the initiative of AFRAA and have for a while said the EU should engage in further talks and not slap the rest of the world with unilateral taxes.
At the same time has the EUs aviation black list also come under fire and scrutiny again as in particular African airlines have been banned from the EUs air space. Here the same source said; but of course we are aware of safety issues in countries like Sudan or Congo, which have the worst record in Africa if not the world. But then look at Russia, they had lots of crashes too and there is no blanket ban for them like we Africans are suffering. But then Russia has muscle, has influence, has oil and gas and the EU will not dare treat them in such an openly contemptuous manner as they treat us. As aviators we all agree with the need to improve safe operations, adhere o maintenance requirements and train crews in line with international ICAO standards but we often feel the EU has a hidden agenda and no amount of denials has changed that, in fact some of their denials read like a confirmation of our suspicions.
Watch this space as this saga now goes into overdrive mode with potential retaliation by America or China and others to the EUs ETS tax ambush.


(Map source by WikiMedia)

Egypt and the Sudan (Khartoum) have reportedly started talks with the government in Addis Ababa over a planned major dam and power station on the Blue Nile near the border between Ethiopia and Sudan.
The project, fiercely opposed by the former Mubarak regime, had raised tensions and clouded diplomatic relations at the time, and while Khartoum and Cairo often did not see eye to eye on a range of issues, whenever it came and comes to the Nile waters, the two are joined at the hip and present an almost unbreakable alliance..
News received therefore during the week, that the three countries were about to hold formal talks on the dam project, were welcomed as was the announcement that a tripartite commission was to be set up, comprising two experts from each country plus an additional four international experts, tasked to study the impact of the proposed dam on the flow of the Nile waters, more than 70 percent are contributed by the Blue Nile from Ethiopia.
The Blue and White Nile, the latter originating in Uganda, meet at Khartoum and both downstream consumer countries depend on the waters of the river for irrigation, industrial and domestic use almost entirely.
The new military led government in Egypt has, at least for now, shown greater readiness to talk to the water producers upstream, although there is suspicion that the principle policy of Egypt, to treat the Nile waters as a matter of national survival and therefore national security, has not changed and that only the present political transition in Egypt prevents a more hardline stand, perhaps however returning sooner rather than later.
In the meantime has Egypt also commenced talks with Tanzania over the use of water from contributory rivers to Lake Victoria and the lake waters for a range of irrigation projects and related uses, following a visit by Egypts foreign minister to Dar es Salaam. Tanzania in fact has called for a meeting of the Nile Basin Initiative countries, which include Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia, besides Khartoum Sudan and Egypt. The two downstream countries last year failed to sign on to the new Nile treaty, which nevertheless is now binding following the required majority signatures from the other countries, and the next round of talks will undoubtedly show if the previous cast in concrete position by Egypt and Khartoum has changed in any way. Watch this space to get future updates of how this long running saga continues to play out.

Nine member airlines of the African Airline Association in Nairobi will be joining hands under a project devised by AFRAA in an effort to seek lowering their fuel cost in the future. Kenya Airways will jointly with Ethiopian Airlines, Precision Air, RwandAir, Air Malawi, Air Namibia, TAAG of Angola, LAM Mozambique and Air Seychelles begin a joint Jet A 1 purchase scheme, thought to be worth over 1.5 billion US Dollars per annum and rising. AFRAA has over 30 members from across Africa, representing almost 85 percent of all traffic carried by African airlines, and more carriers are expected to join the initiative which may save several percentage points on fuel cost for those participating in the scheme. AFRAAs Secretary General Elijah Chingosho also used the opportunity to decry once again the high cost for African airlines of doing business on the continent through a range of regulatory and other charges and taxes levied on them, and called on African governments to do more to make their own airlines more competitive.
It is also understood from a source in Nairobi that individual fuel hedging contracts the various airlines are committed to will not be affected as such will depend on each airlines own assessment on which way the fuel cost are likely to go over the year ahead. Watch this space for regular aviation news updates from the region.

Following the March 07 11 ITB in Berlin / Germany will Derek Houston once again embark across Europe for his annual roadshow on Africa, this year covering Amsterdam, Prague and Warsow, the latter two aimed to further penetrate a fast growing market from countries in the past behind the Iron Curtain.
The Amsterdam workshop will kick off the series at the Marriott Hotel in Amsterdam on March 12th, before moving on to the Czech capital Prague, where the Hotel Ambassador will be the chosen venue on March 14th. Final destination of this whistle stop tour will be the Polish capital Warsow where again the Marriott Hotel will be the venue for the workshop on the 15th March.
Dereks post ITB Spotlight on Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands workshop tour has been hugely successful and often builds on contacts made at ITB or else allows to maximize presence of key staff in Europe for follow up trips to emerging markets and to continue working traditional markets in equal mix. The following added details were passed on by Houston Marketing for interested parties and more information can be found on their website via www.houstonmarketing.co.za . Notably will in April two African workshops follow in Johannesburg between 11th and 13th before moving to Harare for 16th and 17th.

Amsterdam March 12th
In conjunction with Anneli Bronkhorst of wwtourism in Holland we have organized Spotlight roadshows in Holland for the past 6 years. The Netherlands, as you all know is a very important market for Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands and ranks as one of the top European source markets for many African countries. Spotlight has now become a must attend function for the Dutch Tour operators who sell Africa/Indian Ocean. In March 2011 we had 79 attendees.

Central Europe Prague Czech Republic 14 March and Warsaw Poland 15 March

Two key emerging markets for Africa.
Czech Republic There are a number of Africa specialist tour operators already in the market, and the Indian Ocean islands are already established beach destinations for the Czech upper-middle class. In 2010 3780 Czechs visited Kenya and for the first ten months of 2011 the figure shows a 51% increase!

Poland is an overlooked and under-exploited market. With a population of 39 million it is the sixth largest state in the EU. In 2010 Kenya received 9761 Polish visitors and already for the first ten months of 2011 there has been a 62% increase. A number of other African countries are seeing a significant rise in arrivals from Poland. South Africa received nearly 10,000 Polish visitors in 2010 and the SA Embassy predicts a substantial growth in 2011 and 2012

Houston Travel Marketing Services have teamed up with Paddington Tucker of Travel e-SENSE based in Prague to jointly run this workshop. Travelesense will look after the logistics of the workshops and arrange all the advertising and promotions with the Trade press in both countries.
Uganda News

It was learned over the weekend from a regular source in Kampala that the Belgian national airline is planning to upgrade their entire A330 fleet, presently comprising 6 aircraft, to a new standard. The first such retrofitted aircraft will be deployed on the upcoming route to New York, but all services to East and West Africa will progressively also see the new cabin standards, when the re-configuration will be completed when the birds undergo maintenance. In particular the new business class cabin will meet the latest flat bed standards while the seats in economy class will feature individual entertainment system access with screens embedded in the backrests of the seats.
The estimated cost of the cabin upgrade is in the region of US Dollars 40 million, an investment the source said: is necessary and worth it to stay abreast with the latest seat innovations and to stay competitive in the Ugandan market which has seen a lot more competition since last year than ever before.
True enough says this correspondent, considering that 2011 saw 11 new frequencies per week from the Gulf alone, with Gulf Air now flying 4 times a week between Bahrain and Entebbe while 5 star airline Qatar Airways now flies daily between Doha and Entebbe. Watch this space for regular aviation news updates from Uganda, the Eastern African region and from the Indian Ocean islands.


Travellers to Spain have been notified that Qatar Airways, the 5 star airline, will be switching terminals at Madrids Baraja International Airport, from presently Terminal 1 to their new location in Terminal 4. The move will be effective Monday 16th January and is aimed to improve service levels. Ground handling for the flights will also shift to Iberia Airport Services, again for the purpose of optimizing handling performance in Madrid.
Terminal 4 offers superior facilities, like restaurants, shops and in particular the Iberia VIP Lounge, a key ingredient for premium passengers as is a fast track facility for the, bypassing any queues. The terminal is also directly connect to the Spanish capitals public transport system using busses, metro and rail. Additionally can passengers with onward connections to a final destination in Spain connect to Iberia flights in the same terminal, eliminating any need to change terminals.
Qatar Airways operates daily B777 flights from Doha to Madrid and also to Barcelona to which travelers from Uganda, and in fact the other East African destinations of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and soon Mombasa, Zanzibar and Kigali can connect. Watch this space.

Within a week after reporting that Bella had a baby girl on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, did news just break that Kori, the third adult female, has also given birth last night in a surprise development not expected so soon.
Angie Genade, Executive Director of the Rhino Fund Uganda and of the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, broke the news just minutes ago when she herself had received confirmation from her ranger team assigned to look after Kori, that she had given birth during the night.
Ziwa came into being through the generous donation of land use rights by Capt. Joe Roy and was put together by the Rhino Fund Uganda, which then raised nearly a million US Dollars in funding to put up a secure electric fence and rehabilitate the former ranch head quarters, after Capt. Roy had moved over 2.000 cattle to his neighbouring second ranch.
Ziwa now has 12 rhinos to show for visitors, 3 adult males, 3 adult females, 3 adolescent males, 2 baby girls and the latest arrival with the sex not yet confirmed until later, when a closer inspection with binoculars will be possible.
The double birth within the first half of January is a resounding endorsement of what once was described as a mad unattainable dream, turned into reality by YvonneVerkaik, Ugandas erstwhile Rhino Lady, before Angie Genade then took over from her to see the second phase of Ziwa go underway, the breeding.
The four purchased, from Solio in Kenya and two donated rhinos, from Disneys Animal Kingdom in Florida, now have produced 6 offspring and is more than enough evidence that the RFUs breeding programme is working and producing superb results with the initial population now already doubled.
Again, congratulations to Angie and her dedicated staff at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, and watch this space to learn if we have another girl or boy rhino. Visit www.rhinofund.org for more details on the Ugandan rhino re-introduction and breeding programme.

After four months of waiting has the Ministry of Tourism finally received the Kanyeihamba report, giving the findings of the commission of enquiry which has over the past year significantly impacted on the running of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and affected other related bodies too.
The Minister for Tourism, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, himself inexplicably accused of a variety of offences by Kanyihamba, however promptly informed the media yesterday that no action would be taken on the report until all legal challenges were dispensed with in court. A number of individuals have taken issue with the reports contents and gone to court to have either sections of the report or the entire report squashed. At the same time did the minister also say that anyone found to have misused or misappropriated funds under the PAMSU project, financed by the World Bank, would be dealt with in accordance with the law. Notably have World Bank internal audits not fingered any shortfalls in project implementation performance nor pointed at any stage to funds being misdirected or misused, as Kanyeihambas report now alleges.
It was also learned that the report would be tabled at the next cabinet meeting. Kanyeihamba had published his report on November 02nd last year but in a twist of events it was only formally submitted to the Minister of Tourism two days ago, something Prof. Kamuntu also termed as breach of terms and conditions by the commissions chairman. The minister also went on record in admitting, what has long been an open secret, that the entire affair has been damaging to the countrys wildlife sector, made it impossible to appoint a new board of directors for UWA and had also had negative fallout for Ugandas tourism industry.
After Lonely Planet had crowned Uganda as their top destination for 2012, it is hoped that as soon as this sordid saga is finally put to rest that the country can get on promoting the unique attractions of The Pearl of Africa abroad and reap the benefits by a significant increase in tourist arrivals during the current year and beyond.

Ugandans woke up to the stark reality of electricity tariffs rising sharply, after government negated on their contract with the people and shelved power subsidies, forcing the Electricity Regulatory Authority to approve an immediate rise in tariffs. The delay of the Bujagali power plant going on line, inexplicably accompanied by stubborn silence from the promoters over the true causes and the length of the delay, clearly is now taking its toll as expensive diesel plants continue to remain in operation, unless the country would be plunged into darkness again, at least more than it already is every other night. Inflation, which went below 30 percent again in December, is expected to get another accelerating boost from the tariff increase, not just for the immediate month of January but for some time to come as goods manufactured in Ugandan will also become more expensive as the factories electricity bills will sharply rise.
Power theft, already a major problem in the country, is expected to go up immediately following the new tariffs coming into effect in two days time, with honest consumers who pay their bills also having to foot the bill of the thieves through the higher tariffs, since electricity distributer UMEME seems near powerless, pun intended, to bring that problem under control.
Hotels and restaurants, already struggling under the onslaught of inflation, have already indicated that prices will have to go up to compensate for the expected massive increase in cost, and the current strike by traders over the equally risen cost of finance, through interest rates going up to near 30 percent too one leading bank now offers a 20 percent interest rate on fixed deposits for a year is indicative of the now deeply rooted disenchantment with the measures employed by government to bring the economic crisis to a halt.
While the long term prospects for Ugandas economy remain positive, based on the eventual coming on line of oil and gas production, it is the immediate future of the economy and its impact on all segments of society, worst for the poor, bad for the middle class and challenging for the business community, which marks the current debate.
Whichever way, the start of 2012, once the fireworks in the skies over Kampala had ended, is now duller than was expected and the fallout continues across society for the foreseeable future. Watch this space.


The Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre, based at the Kajjansi Airfield and Ugandas leading domestic charter airline, is turning 15 years, after 1 ½ decades of accident free operations across East Africa. Founded by Captains Jeremy McKelvie and Russell Barnes in 1997, KAFTC has grown in leaps and bounds and moved from the initial ka container single room office to their current operational centre and maintenance base, which has been purpose built and is living proof how aviation in Uganda has evolved over the past 15 years.

The company has also been at the forefront in participating in changes to air service regulations and is engaged in regular dialogue with the CAA, representing the aviation sector and developing a rapport with the regulatory staff. Corporate social responsibility too ranks high with support for the nearby Sure Prospects Nursery and Primary School from where children even had the opportunity to take to the skies, an experience they will surely never forget.

Today KAFTC operates a fleet of single engined, twin engined and rotary aircraft, since the acquisition of a helicopter last year and maintains them all in their own hangar at the Kajjansi field, of course duly licensed by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, as a flight training center, as a charter airline and as maintenance and repair organization. On the books of KAFTC, as this article goes to press, are 3 Cessna 172, 2 Cessna 206, 2 Cessna 208 aka Caravan, 1 Cessna 210, 1 BN2 Islander, 1 DHC-6 Twin Otter, 1 Great Lakes and 1 Bell 206 Helicopter. Add to that Capt. Howard Davenports personal Jungmeister and it makes for an impressive display of birds when visiting their base at the Kajjansi field.

Notable, and worth mentioning separate, is THE classic bi plane of Great Lakes make, meticulously maintained and able to fly acrobatics over Kajjansi or elsewhere or just to a sightseeing flight in the way the first pilots experienced the skies, wind in the face in an open cockpit, wearing the helmet and goggles just like it was a hundred years ago, when those daring sky devils took their planes up.

(The Great Lakes above Lake Victoria with yours truly in the front seat / Picture courtesy of Capt. Russell Barnes)

With this new bird the Aeroclub is now able to offer thrilling rides with loops, 8s, rolls, inverted flight and more, and their latest addition to the aircraft is a battery of video cameras capturing the moment when at the top of the loop gravity for a moment turns to zero before the G-forces then set in again when descending.

The Aeroclub is of course also a regular meeting place for aviation buffs, members and spectators who have access to a swimming pool from where aircraft taking off and landing can be seen with ease, and a fully equipped little restaurant serving snacks and drinks throughout the day. In particular over the weekends are members often seen with their families, bringing their adult love for flying closer to their own children, creating the next generation of aviators in Uganda.

(Part of the leisure facilities for Aeroclub members with the new offices behind)

In early February will the Aeroclub hold a celebration of their 15 years in the skies, with some daring aerial displays including Capt. Howards signature move, a ribbon cut, the first solo flight of an aspiring pilot, a formation fly past, a flour bombing contest aimed to raise funds for the Sure Hope School and various other airborne surprises including a full acrobatic display by Capt. Howard. Congratulations to all the fly boys and fly girls at KAFTC and all their staff on the occasion of turning 15 adolescent in human age but well matured as aviation in Uganda goes.
Visit www.flyuganda.com for more information.


News just came in that Bella, one of the mature female rhinos at the Rhino Fund Ugandas rhino sanctuary at Ziwa, has given birth last night. While it is too early to determine the sex of the little one these particulars are expected to become available within the next few days. The team at Ziwa was over the moon with the news, as the birth while expected to take place in January came rather suddenly and the rangers attached to Bella found her nursing her little one when they cautiously approached in the morning to do their roll call.
Ziwa now has 11 rhinos, 6 adults, 3 adolescents, one little rhino baby born about half a year ago and now the latest addition, to the growing rhino family. The third female adult is also heavy and expected to have her baby within the next few weeks too.
2012 is the year to Visit Uganda 2012 as pronounced by the Lonely Planet guide book company in the UK, which has crowned The Pearl of Africa as the most desirable destination on the globe, an accolade which will hopefully not be lost on adventurous and intrepid travelers seeking a unique nature experience as only Uganda can offer it.
Angie Genade, Executive Director of both the Rhino Fund Uganda and the Rhino Sanctuary in Ziwa, broke the news this morning to current chairperson of RFU Dirk Ten Brink and this correspondent in his capacity as Immediate Past Chairman of the Rhino Fund Uganda, beaming with joy. The author will be visiting the sanctuary in coming days and hopes to return with pictures of the new born baby, and the much awaited confirmation of the little rhinos sex, hoped for to be another girl of course. Visit angie for more details and information how to support the rhino breeding project and rhino re-introduction in Uganda. Watch this space.


The office of Qatar Airways in Kampala has announced that from early February the airline will fly to two additional destinations, Tbilisi in Georgia and Baku in Azerbaijan. This will in particular aid the inflow to East Africa of tourists from there, but also for the purpose of trade and investments, where East Africa offers plenty of opportunities. Azerbaijan, also said to be rich in oil and gas is expected to show a particular interest in the exploitation of oil and gas resources in Uganda, to where Qatar Airways now flies daily from Doha, connecting Entebbe to their global network. The news of added destinations if thought to be crucially important to the success of Qatar Airways in Uganda, and from end March onwards Rwanda too, when the scheduled daily flights will extend to Kigali. Other Gulf airlines have in recent days made hay over their new destinations in South America and Ireland and the Qatar Airways team in Kampala will be happy to tell the market of similar good news of a growing network, now spanning much of the globe with its legendary 5 star service. Said a source close to the airline in Kampala: Qatar Airways, the worlds only 5 star airline, will continue to spread the wings to ever new destinations as more aircraft aircrafts are delivered. QR will be uniquely positioned to uplift Ugandans to their final destinations with the best service in the skies and bring a lot more business and holiday visitors to the country. Go Fly!

While St. Patricks Day is a long way off, Emirates marketing team will undoubtedly already scheme how to paint the sky in green ahead of that event, now that the airline has commenced flights to Dublin. The daily A330 service will connect Africa, Eastern Europe, India, Asia and the Pacific region conveniently with the Irish capital, arriving there just before mid day local time.
Here in Uganda, as in the entire East Africa, Emirates sales personnel have been pushing their preferred travel agents to highlight the new service to the extensive Irish expatriate community, now finally able to also fly Emirates enroute to the Emerald Island when they go home for their annual leave.
It could not be established though at this time if Irish beer, in particular Guinness will be served on the flight from Dubai to Dublin though experience with Emirates would suggest that their catering team will pay close attention to such important details.
The launch of Dublin is the 118th destination of Emirates and comes only days after launching Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires services, it was pointed out to this correspondent by a regular source at the Emirates office in Kampala which has notably stepped up the information flow since the arrival of rivals Qatar Airways and Gulf Air in Uganda in November and December respectively. Now why is that one wonders, tongue in cheek?

Kenya News
It was learned over the weekend that a new ownership has emerged at Fly 540 Aviation, when Lonrho with their new partners Sir Stelios compelled the other existing shareholders to sell in the face of whatever evidence they were confronted with taking full control of East Africas first LCC.
Previous Co-CEO Don Smith predictably had to leave Fly 540, and it is understood that no tears were shed by anyone over this, while Neill Steffen, the other Co-CEO and previously more engaged in other Fly 540 operations in other parts of Africa, will return full time to Nairobi to take charge of the airline.
Only a week ago were news broken here of these developments being imminent, bringing forth the wrath of those exposed a shade too early for their own clandestine taste, but with this latest confirmation now at hand, it is once again clear that the story broken then was entirely correct and that the anger of those now departed has departed with it.
It was confirmed that Don Smith will be moving over to East African Safari Air Express, a company ostensibly taken over by Fly 540, in retrospect not the case as it was taken over by one individual. EASAX is now awaiting a Kenya Civil Aviation Authority licensing hearing to learn about the fate of their application for an air service license, something which will probably meet with objections from other airlines but that will be another story to be told right here when the time comes.
Another piece of information which emerged from the weekend information flow was that what was thought to have been Fly 540s own maintenance facility at Wilson Airport was apparently also owned by the now former CEO Don Smith, which if correct would be a clear sign of longer term intent, to be ready when the day would inevitably come that the other shareholders, those with the money that is, could no longer to be duped and would come knocking at the door with strong men in attendance, figuratively speaking of course. Whether, as has been rumoured, that MRO has charged Fly 540 over the top for maintenance, cannot be confirmed but a forensic audit could possible shed some light on this piece of the equation, should the new bosses at Fly 540 wish to pursue the matter further.
The new owners seem set to roll out an ambitious fleet development programme to turn their vision finally into reality, no longer held back by internal elements with their own hidden agenda, and will in coming months turn into what is expected to be a purely jet airline, operating regional flights and the city pairs to Kisumu, Malindi and Mombasa. Watch this space as the Fly 540 saga enters a new phase with new owners, refreshed management and the deep pockets to make things happen.

Flavio Briatores plans for expanding his billionaires resort in Malindi met with local opposition when boat and beach business operators protested at the public beach of the construction site, preventing contractors to put up a fence which could have cut off access to the beach in contravention of existing regulations. Rules require that a distance between any wall or fence of at least 60 metres from the high water mark has to be kept but the contractors appear to have attempted to erect a fence way into that zone.
The locals also made an argument of how the land, apparently given by Kenya Wildlife Service under a 20 year concession being inside the demarcated area of the marine park was given to the investor without a public hearing or competitive bidding, leaving local KWS officials overwhelmed and according to a report from a source in Malindi unable to defuse the situation.
Briatore, former team chief of the Renault Formula 1 team, fell into disgrace when the FIA banned him from any participation in racing, then turning his attention to other ventures, one of them being the construction of a top end resort in Malindi with all the trimmings, winning him awards already for the Spa.
The source in Malindi also mentioned that the fence could have been to seal off the construction site until the new portion of the resort was ready to open, to prevent trespassing and potential theft of materials. It is understood that government officials have called for a meeting early in the week to discuss the situation and find a solution which can meet the requirements of all parties now facing off in the dispute.

The stark reality of past failures to look and plan ahead in good time has once again come home to roost for the Kenya Airports Authority and all the airlines operating from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last night, when due to urgent repairs and maintenance of runway and taxiway lighting, a significant number of flights were delayed. The aviation fraternity has for long demanded that East Africas most important airport requires a second runway so that traffic can continue to arrive and depart in case of an incident on one runway.
A regular aviation source from Nairobi said: They told us in advance to reschedule flights during the closure. It seems wiring needed replacement or had to be maintained but with a second runway we would not have had a total closure of Nairobi. We have been telling that to KAA for years but their top ranks just prance about trying to be important. They should be relevant if they had had the competence to understand issues, we would have a second runway by now and the expansion of the airport would have been finished a year ago. Government should stop putting politicians into such places and employ professionals.
It was confirmed that a NOTAM, aka notice to airmen, had been issued in advance allowing airlines both inbound and outbound to delay arrivals and departures, though at a cost of annoying passengers and having some of them miss their connecting flights and needing rebooking by their airlines to reach their final destinations.
KAA has announced that a second runway would be constructed but the completion of this crucial piece of new infrastructure may well still take several years. Watch this space for regular updates from the Eastern African aviation scene.


(Rusinga Island Camp on Lake Victoria, tranquil and serene pictures courtesy of www.rusinga.com)
A new tourism masterplan for Western Kenya has been unveiled earlier in the week in Nairobi, aimed at first showcasing the regions attractions and then bringing visitors, Kenyans and wagenis alike to this hitherto under explored part of the country. Relatively few tourists actually make their way to the shores of Lake Victoria, stay at one of the laid back but often quite luxurious fishing camps or else visit Kakamega leave along Kitale at the foot of Mt. Elgon, or traverse the Nandi Hills, missing out on some of the most scenic spots Kenya has to offer, and having it all to themselves, for now that is, sharing the sights only with the locals.
Kogelo Village, located not far from the lake side city of Kisumu, rose to global prominence as the home village of President Obamas father and his paternal family, and organized tours have raised the profile of the wider region around Kisumu too, but not nearly enough to match visitor numbers for instance to the Kenyan coast, the safari parks or Nairobi. Tourism is not just about beaches in Mombasa or the national parks, Kenya as a country has a lot more to offer, national monuments, scenic sights and places like seeing the Kerio Valley from Kabarnet or the other side in Iten, the Nandi Hills and the Kericho area with all the tea estates. Much of that is never seen by tourists, and we think that every part of Kenya is worth exploring. At last now some effort is being made to showcase all of the country and not just those parts Kenya is already well known for overseas. We also want local visitors to come from other parts of the country and appreciate what other parts look like a regular source from Nairobi added to the topic. The Kenya Tourist Board and the Kenya Wildlife Service have jointly embarked on pushing domestic travel to the forefront in 2012 with their hash tag campaign on Twitter #TembeaKenya, and have recorded some sharply risen interest from Kenyans to be part of this movement, to travel their own country and getting to know their country better.
It is now official policy of the Ministry of Tourism in Nairobi to have domestic travel contribute half of overalls tourism activities by 2015 and by the looks of it they are well on the way to achieve that. Watch this space.

Rwanda News

The Karisoke Gorilla Research Centre has just announced that they have appointed the first ever Rwandan national, Mr. Felix Ndagijimana, as its new director. Felix will take over from Katie Fawcett, who has been holding the position for some time.
Karisoke, founded in 1967, is the legacy of the late Diane Fossey who was murdered for her zealous and outspoken defense to protect the mountain gorillas back in the 70s and 80s. Felix has been with Karisoke since 2008 as deputy director and is therefore no stranger to the challenges at hand. Notably was the announcement time with what would have been Diane Fosseys 80th birthday on the 16th of January.
Conservationists in Rwanda and the gorilla triangle also comprising Uganda and Congo DR have hailed Felixs appointment as a groundbreaking advance of incorporating local expertise and opening the door for a wider participating of East Africans in the field of conservation. Said a regular source last evening from Kigali: We have known Felix for a long time and it is an honour, not just for him as a professional and person, but for Rwanda overall, to see him rise to the top of this most important gorilla conservation NGO and research organization. It will be something making news around the world. Congratulations to him.
This correspondent too extends his warmest congratulations to Felix, and until we meet again at Kwita Izina 2012.
Visit http://gorillafund.org/page.aspx?pid=382 for more details on the work carried out by the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund Internationals Karisoke Research Centre.


(The Bumba Base Camp, operated by Father Patrick)

A few weeks ago, while traversing sections of the Congo Nile Trail, the effects tourists can have on local needs became quite apparent. First, the visit to the L Esperance orphanage, one of the 8 base camps of the trail, about which I have already written a separate article and hope that it generated interest and support for this unique concept of making an orphanage totally self sufficient.
And then, the next day, I was confronted at one of the trails base camps, Bumba to be precise, with the way initiative turns to self help, albeit still of course in need of well wishers and donations. Father Patrick, incidentally a fellow Ugandan, came to Rwanda not long after the 1994 genocide, when entire sections of the Catholic clergy had either been murdered or gone rogue and supported the murdering, to allow the institution of the church a new start. Father Patrick wasted no time to get stuck in what was then and continues to be a problem people in rural Rwanda face living with disabilities, caused by disease or else caused back then by having lost limbs, making a productive life of farming almost impossible to achieve.

(Father Patrick being interviewed during our visit by the Rwandan media with Lake Kivu in the background)

At the Bumba Base Camp, not far from the high elevation view point from where the continental water divide between the Nile basin and the Congo basin can be seen in all its majesty good weather permitting that is as during my visit it was truly raining the proverbial cats and dogs has Father Patrick created a training facility for people living with disabilities and it is there, that they are taught how to use sewing machines to make new clothes, do repairs on old clothes and fabrics and finally be able to make a decent living with dignity.
Hundreds have gone through Father Patricks hands and dozens more are in training or have applied for places at Bumba.
The launch of the Congo Nile Trail though also adds another dimension to Father Patricks efforts to support his community outreach programmes. Now he can receive paying guests, accommodate them in simple but adequate accommodation and offer them meals and drinks. Guests stay overnight, hike to the view point and back and are fed homemade meals from homegrown ingredients, matooke, beans, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and more. Almost a home stay, guests at Bumba become friends, and many have made extraordinary efforts to raise support and funding for Father Patricks initiative upon their return home.

(A wholesome meal not seeking to win culinary awards but to fill an empty stomach and provide lasting sustenance)

When the kitchen staff peel the matooke and potatoes and cut the vegetables to size, they sing and hum, showing that an indomitable spirit exists, which is, as I saw it, not just Catholic but deeply spiritual in nature and crossing the religious divides, but also the erstwhile tribal divides which led to the 1994 genocide in the first place.
Every single one has a smile on their faces, knowing what they do is important, for the guests who stay and for themselves being able to become productive members of society.
And so tourism, that great equalizer when in fact on a trail like the Congo Nile, brings different people, from different backgrounds and nations and social standing together, all hiking the same roads and tracks and many of them staying at Bumba for a night. Here, under the guidance of Father Patrick, is a new cottage being built, which when ready will provide another three self contained rooms, sleeping up to 6 people in comfort, while shared accommodation and dormitory style accommodation is also available for those on the tiniest of budgets. The Bumba Base Camp is a key to explore the hills above the Lake Kivu shores near Kibuye and will undoubtedly be in greater demand yet when the new building is ready and can provide comfortable living arrangements for the guests. Father Patrick and his staff are also keen to show visitors around, explain their projects aims and objectives to them and of course interaction with the trainees is not just possible but welcome, to forge lasting friendships and for years to come stay in touch the wonderful people found deep in rural Rwanda, until perhaps returning once again to explore even more of the hidden treasures of the Congo Nile Trail.

(The new 3 bedroom cottage being built at Bumba Base Camp)

The Bumba Base Camp is one of presently 8 in operation, spread over the 227 km long trail, which spans the entire distance between Kamembe / Cyanugu and Gisenyi, offering some of the most scenic sights, from the lake shores but also from the high hills above the lake, while traversing the forests, tea and coffee plantations along the trail or else do the loops into Nyungwe Forest National Park or into the Gishwati Forest Reserve.
The trail can be conquered in 10 days of hiking, up to 6 days of biking or in 4 days by either boat or four wheel drive vehicles, or alternating between all these sources of transport. What is important that all hikers pass at Bumba, see the continental water divide and have the opportunity to meet people like Father Patrick, spiritual carer but also entrepreneur with a keen eye to create sustainable income to keep his dreams alive and the flame of compassion burning. Write to him via batepatric for more information about the Bumba Base Camp, the work he is doing there and how best to support the outreach mission station.


(Lake Kivu, as seen from the Bumba Base Camp along the Congo Nile Trail with Napoleon Island in the centre dominating the view )

Several dozen of the scenic islands, which dot Lake Kivu in Rwandan waters, will be surveyed in coming months to determine which ones can be used for human settlement and which should remain unpopulated to be used for tourism and conservation purposes in the future. It was learned that the Rwandan government was particularly keen to preserve such islands with significant forest and tree cover in line with general policy to increase forests by 2020 again to 30 percent of the land.
Closely involved in the survey is notably the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department, which would be ideally suited to the develop and manage islands set aside as protected areas and create, possibly in private public partnership additional facilities able to attract foreign tourists who come for fishing, boating and birdwatching, or simply to relax in a hammock as this correspondent does on Amahoro Island off the shores near Kibuye. This island has already been set aside as a privately owned tourism resort island and more such development plans exist according to personal findings made when on location in late November of 2011.

(This author seen hammocking on Amahoro Island, Lake Kivu, part of the Congo Nile Trail experience)

While tourism operators and conservation groups see opportunities arising from the planned surveying, residents living or farming on the various islands were reportedly anxious to find out more about the exercise, fearful they might have to leave their land and be resettled, should islands be found to meet conservation or tourism standards and where forests demand protection. Said a regular source from Kigali: In Rwanda such things are done according to law. From what I know none of these islands are presently declared protected areas although it may be found necessary to do so in the future. There is a due process in place, like we have seen some years ago with Gishwati Forests where encroachers were resettled and sensitized about the importance of restoring forest cover there. For now it is a mapping and surveying which is being done and when the results are out, which can take months, government will study the results. No action is ever taken here without consulting those who would be affected. Tourism is keen to see more attractions, more protected areas and RFB has a lake cruiser from Gisenyi which can take tourists along the lake shores to Kibuye and further. Establishing bird watching islands and conservation islands on that route will give tourists more to see and the facilities needed will create investment and jobs.
Clearly Rwanda is not done by far diversifying in the tourism sector with undoubtedly more news emerging as time goes on. Watch this space for regular updates from The Land of a Thousand Hills.

Rwandans will be celebrating today as the contents of a long awaited judicial report, conducted in France by independent magistrates, are becoming public today. The main issue, after a clearly biased, probably unduly influenced and now completely disgraced Brugiere had accused the Rwanda Patriotic Front in general and President Kagame and amongst others his former Head of Protocol Rose Kabuye in particular, was where the fateful rocket was fired from, which brought down the plane carrying Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart as they returned from a peace summit in Arusha. The French claimed jurisdiction as the two pilots of the stricken plane were French nationals. Independent experts have now confirmed that the trajectory of the deadly rocket put the firing location right into the middle of a loyalist army base at the time, when hardline forces gained the upper hand against Habyarimana for being allegedly too soft and too willing to compromise. His signature on a peace accord in Arusha, widely reported that day, sealed his fate and then triggered off an apparently long planned and swiftly executed genocide plan, which cost over 800.000 innocent lives before President Kagames liberation movement eventually pushed the killers out of the country who were fleeing into Congo at the time.
Brugieres investigation, really not worth even to be called an investigation, was surprisingly short and culminated in his indictment of senior Rwandan government officials, leading eventually to the ambush arrest of Rose Kabuye in Frankfurt, where German authorities executed a French arrest warrant. This was inspite of Mrs. Kabuye travelling under diplomatic immunity as head of protocol preparing the final touches for a visit to Germany by President Kagame at the time. Taken to Paris to face trial by Brugiere, evidence submitted soon reached a level that she gained freedom first on bail, before being cleared as expected and triumphantly returning home.
The report now available will be the precursor of the still pending investigation of senior Rwandan government officials being terminated, something which is expected to happen very soon, bringing an end to this sorry affair, where one clearly misguided if not pre-disposed individual caused the disruption of diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France at the time, since then however fully restored.
It is also expected that with this development the world will now pay greater attention to those responsible for the genocide and still hiding in Europe, America, Africa and elsewhere, to bring them to justice as they deserve, now that the innocent have been cleared of all allegations. A day to jubilate, a day to celebrate but also a day to remember over 800.000 innocent victims of one of the most gruesome genocides of modern times.

Mauritius News
Over 25.000 young fish were released at the Blue Bay Marine Park earlier in the week as part of the Mauritian governments efforts to restore biodiversity and restock areas in lagoons and bays with insufficient fish numbers. This particular location is due to ultimately see up to 100.000 young fish released as part of a pilot project aimed to restore selected marine sites to their former status. Government officials present also mentioned added efforts to be taken to protect coral reefs and better regulate the resource use.

Mauritius tourism stakeholders will be pleased with the outcome of the World Travel Award Ceremony earlier in the week in Qatar, when the country scooped several major awards, against stiff competition from amongst others their fellow Vanilla Island competitors. The Trou Aux Biches, operated by fancied Beachcomber resort group, was given the much coveted Worlds Leading Beach Destination award, while Air Mauritius scooped the Indian Oceans Leading Airline recognition. Needless to say, Mauritius international airport Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan International, already crowned best airport in Africa last year, was voted as the Indian Oceans Leading Airport too. Mauritius overall was also declared as the Indian Oceans leading destination to the delight of Mauritians present at the award ceremony. Hilton rounded up the winning announcements when their Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa was named as the Indian Oceans Leading Resort.
Well done indeed and congratulations to Mauritius and the tourism industry for their extraordinary effort to get into the award books once again. Visit www.visitmauritius.com.au the Australian based website operated by Nick Savage where information about the island is not only available but regularly updated, unlike from the official Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, which remains almost invisible.

The Airports of Mauritius company is reportedly engaged in negotiations with nearby residents to acquire their land, needed to optimize security and operational safety. From information received from the island over 20 families have received offers of compensation to give up their land and resettle somewhere else, as the expansion and modernization of the countrys main airport, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan International, goes ahead. Offers based on market value of the properties were formally made by the end of last year and feedback is expected to be in by mid January. Ongoing construction work has apparently prompted complaints from nearby residents, making it more urgent that resettlement and voluntary acquisition of land parcels needed is concluded with all haste.
SRIA was in a survey last year declared as Africas best airport but is clearly aiming to retain that accolade and improve facilities further to welcome a million and more visitors expected to visit Mauritius in 2012. Final arrival details and statistics from Mauritius are expected in due course for 2011 and will be published here as and when received.

It was confirmed overnight from a source in Port Louis / Mauritius that national carrier Air Mauritius, come end March this year, will begin a nonstop service to Shanghai, cutting out the present stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
When the news of the inaugural flight were brought here, it was at the time already mentioned that the airline was actively exploring new and emerging markets, for both tourism and trade and the shift from an onward connection via Malaysia to a nonstop service will undoubtedly enhance the quality of the flight and attract added business.
The connection, presently once a week every Monday out of Mauritius, will also be of interest to the airlines African continental destinations like Cape Town, Johannesburg or Nairobi, offering added options to reach China and tap into that fast emerging travel and trade market.
Unlike in neighbouring Seychelles, where the national airline was all but gutted and has today operated its last flight out of Europe, Mauritius has been fiercely protective of the national airline and restricted air access by other airlines on the principle of reciprocity or else limiting the number of flights, inspite of loud objections by hotel and resort operators who want more flights by more airlines to fill their beds. Time will tell who will prevail here, so watch this space.

La Reunion News

A source from Mauritius has passed information overnight that Air Austral, the home airline of the French Indian Ocean territory, is set to make some significant changes to their schedules and destinations, following the return of a B777-200 to the lessor recently. The airline will end flights to both Sydney / Australia and Bangkok / Thailand from the upcoming summer schedule but add flights between Paris and the Seychelles, enroute to La Reunion with full traffic rights between the islands. Special offers for the Paris to Seychelles route are already being advertised at the fare of Euro 698 and according to information at hand, confirmed by a source from the Seychelles, this operation will commence on 27th March every Tuesday and Friday.
Air Austral also appears set to increase their present twice a week flights from La Reunion to Lyon / France to three at the same time.
Talks between the Vanilla Island airlines have intensified following the radical downsizing of Air Seychelles and all three carriers, Air Austral, Air Mauritius and Air Seychelles are in talks to identify areas of cooperation which could lead to cost savings.
Watch this space for news from the aviation sector from the Indian Ocean islands and Eastern Africa.

Seychelles News
The start of 2012 also saw the inaugural edition of Sealife Seychelles being launched in Victoria and across the main islands, a new publication dedicated to highlighting and promoting ocean based activities for tourists. The new magazines editor, Arnold Chetty, had this to say: The primary purpose of the magazine is to educate Seychellois and visitors alike on the rich marine resources of Seychelles and the life giving characteristics of the vast seas that surround Seychelles. Visitors to these islands are overwhelmed by the richness of the Indian Ocean and the wide range of recreational activities it provides. Regardless of age, there is something for everyone to engage in. From snorkeling to deep sea diving, boat tours or sailing or better still deep sea fishing there are organised activities for all your sea-based leisure cravings.
Alain St. Ange, Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, equally welcomed the new magazine which he said would enhance the holiday experience of tourists, allowing them to find out just how many activities on the ocean await them, from fishing to scuba diving to sailing and lots more. He then added: it is always a joy each time a new local publication hits the news stand. And when a publication such as Sea Life Seychelles is launched, and is all about the Seychelles islands greatest asset our marine environment this is even more significant. At a time when the STB is doubling its efforts to give added value to the Seychelles brand of tourism, both here and overseas, publications of this nature truly complement our task. Our marketing effort to bring visitors to our shores is half done job. When visitors hit our shores, we need to ensure that their customer experience is great and that they are well versed on all local offerings so that they can sample what Seychelles is about.
Seychelles, truly Another World. Visit www.seychelles.travel for more information about the archipelagos rich biodiversity and natural attractions.

Louis DOffay, long serving chairman of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, has over the weekend voiced his members concerns over what they felt would be a tough 2012, considering the withdrawal of all European services by Air Seychelles. Stating that all members of SHTA must and do have a say in matters concerning the tourism industry, he went on to add: The SHTA is all about tourism in Seychelles, the hotels, DMCs, car hires and boat operators and not just the business of a few hotel operators.
Pointing at the higher cost of doing business, like the significant increase in tariffs for electricity and the increase in VAT which is making the destination more expensive for visitors, Mr. DOffay also asked government to increase recources availed to SHTA to allow the association to play the crucial private sector counterpart function and work hand in hand with government and the Seychelles Tourism Board as equals.
In turn, STBs CEO Alain St. Ange, who had joined his SHTA colleagues for a walk in the ocean at Au Cap, announced the 2012 arrival target was showing a modest increase from the 2011 all time record of over 194.000 visitors to 200.000 estimated arrivals. This, Mr. St. Ange pointed out, would be possible by tapping increasingly into new and emerging markets, using the sharply grown number of air links now available by Gulf based airlines.
In the meantime it was also learned that the dual approach of marketing the islands as both a top end destination but also as an affordable destination, would intensify in 2012. STB, following the restructuring in 2009, introduced the tagline Affordable Seychelles, paying special attention to budget travelers intent to staying in guest houses, B&Bs, holiday villas and apartments, squashing the notion that the Seychelles was purely for the rich and famous, while of course continuing to promote the luxury market with equal vigour, highlighting the new 5 star resorts which have opened since the turnaround of the industry following the 2008 global economic crisis.
Mr. DOffay was accompanied by association secretary Daniella Alis-Payet, association treasurer Alan Mason, the SHTAs recently appointed Executive Director Raymond St. Ange and the CEO of Nature Seychelles Dr. Nirmal Shah. Watch this space as the March 02 04 Carnaval International de Victoria now rapidly approaches.


(Picture courtesy of STB)

It was reported overnight that the 6 leading destination management companies in the Seychelles, Masons Travel, Creole Travel Services, 7 Degrees South, Elite Travel Club, Select Seychelles and Vision Voyages have yesterday signed a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with China in a meeting organized by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, supported by the Seychelles Tourism Board.
Present was the Chinese Ambassador to the Seychelles as well as the Chairman of STB, Barry Faure, who witnessed the representatives of the six companies to put pen to paper. Alain St. Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board said on the occasion of the signing: This signing of an MOU between all the DMCs comes at the right time. The Government of Seychelles has decided to open direct air access between Seychelles and China. To make this initiative we all need to work together and todays show of unity among all the local tour operators is therefore welcomed. Another source from Victoria also hailed the agreement as breaking new ground, pointing to the near doubling of arrival numbers by Chinese citizens to the Seychelles in 2011 and then adding: when the new airlinks kick in we should see this number rise even further. China is soon going to overtake Europe and America as the main source market for tourists going abroad and we here in the Seychelles are ready to see that market grow. Our tourist office presence in China is working well and in particular the Gulf airlines offer a one stop flight connection for Chinese citizens from a number of key cities. This agreement is very good news for us.
Seychelles, truly Another World.

Data availed overnight show an impressive 11 percent arrival growth for the Seychelles in 2012, making it the second record breaking year in a row after 2010. 194.753 visitors had arrived across the year, more than twice the number of people actually living on the archipelagos islands. France, the UK, Germany and Italy were the top producer markets but emerging markets showed encouraging trends and proved the strategy of market diversification of the Seychelles Tourism Board right. Chinas visitor numbers almost doubled with a 97 percent growth while the Middle Eastern market grew by 44 percent in 2012 as a result of the increase in flight frequencies from Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi. Africas market share reached a respectable 12 percent, underscoring the fact that the no Visa policy of the Seychelles actually works in favour of African visitors, who need little else but a return airticket, a confirmed hotel booking and a yellow fever inoculation certificate to be welcomes to the Creole island paradise for a holiday of a lifetime.
The Seychelles Tourism Board had forecast a 7 percent rise in visitor numbers, exceeding their own predictions by a further 4 percent, benefitting from the huge publicity generated by the Royal Honeymoon, their first ever Carnaval Festival and a simply never relenting marketing blitz around the world which did not stop nor lose momentum throughout the year.

For 2012 the outlook is cautiously optimistic, and though nagging doubts remain over the impact of national airline Air Seychelles withdrawing with little notice from all their European routes, a code share arrangement with Abu Dhabis Etihad may in weeks to come still capture that lost capacity and provide seats to wannabe travelers under an Air Seychelles flight number, though operated of course by Etihad. The arrival of Transaero, a Russian airline now flying 3 times a month to Mahe, and of Air Austral by the end of March, which will once again offer a nonstop link from Paris, three times a week, are however thought to help the Seychelles to meet their 2012 targets as will the planned commencement of flights by Ethiopian Airlines and Blue Panorama from Italy.

Alain St. Ange, the CEO of the tourism board, had this to say: The SHTA, the Hospitality & Tourism Association stood behind the Team at the Tourism Board in its efforts, and this has made it possible for Seychelles to achieve this record in visitor arrival numbers. The Government of the country has also supported the efforts of its Tourism Board and on more occasion than one, the President of the Republic himself led working visits in potential markets to help facilitate the work of the countrys tourism industry. He also paid tribute to the global media which have given the Seychelles significantly increased exposure over the past 12 months, spurred undoubtedly also by the Royal Honeymoon but were also notably fair in reporting two freak shark attacks in an accurate fashion.

Watch this space for regular news updates from the Seychelles and the other Vanilla Islands in the Indian Ocean.

With the last European service of HM now withdrawn, January 10th having been the watershed day for Air Seychelles, the downsizing, management would probably prefer the word rightsizing of Air Seychelles continues.
Besides the domestic services to a number of islands, where operations continue as usual and without problems, the airlines B 767-300s are now largely under employed as only the services to Mauritius and Johannesburg continue to operate. It was in fact learned that two of the aircraft will commence final return to lessor checks as required under the respective lease agreements, before they will be handed back to ILFC in the coming weeks. The remaining B 767-300 will continue to stay in service until later in the year a new B737-800 is due to be delivered to Air Seychelles, also by ILFC on a long term lease. The single aisle aircraft is expected to fly to Johannesburg and other destinations on the African mainland and across the Indian Ocean islands, though no final decisions appears to have been made as yet in this regard with various evaluations on the viability of new routes still ongoing.
Nearly 20 percent of all Air Seychelles staff are being made redundant, which will literally include all who were deployed in London, Paris, Milan and Rome joining their former workmates from Singapore. Ground personnel and administration staff too are said to be amongst those now having to leave the airline.
Independent airline analysts were however swift to point out that this can only be an intermediate step as any airline with eventually only one jet aircraft and a few turboprops on domestic routes would not be able to sustain over 700 employees, a challenge the companys top management is still working on. More redundancies are likely to be announced in a more compassionate way, step by step rather than in one fell swoop, something apparently encouraged by the government which is also the sole shareholder in the national airline.
Notably has the airline also agreed with the Gulf carriers flying to the Seychelles, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad, to hold another round of recruitment talks, aimed to offer those made redundant now the option to find new employment elsewhere. This exercise will take place at the airlines training centre and run until Thursday inclusive.
Meanwhile are talks ongoing with Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi and apparently Air Seychelles choice partner for an extensive range of code share agreements, which would be operated under dual flight numbers, to comprehensively cover the European markets but also destinations from across the global Etihad network.
The ultimate question for Air Seychelles now is what will come of this massive transformation when it is finally complete will a shining bright and beautiful new butterfly emerge from it or will it be a dull and ugly moth? Watch this space for the latest aviation news updates from the Indian Ocean islands and from across Eastern Africa.

And in closing today as most of the times, some material from Gill Stadens The Livingstone Weekly with news and updates from further down south

Rain or Given Lubinda? ZAMBIA

We have had rain, but only a little. It looks like it is going to be a bad year for us. I suppose it should be the main topic of conversation but it is not.

The main topic is that for once we had a good Minister of Tourism in the person of Given Lubinda who hit the headlines in the International Press. He was even on the BBC and CNN, when he did, they said, a bungee jump from the bridge. This is the BBCs headline: Is it a bird? Plane? No it’s Zambia’s tourism minister. In fact he did the high wire and the swing, but that is hardly the point. He put Livingstone and Zambia in the news good news.

We were told, after his positive trip to Livingstone, that there had been a mini shuffle in the Zambian Cabinet and Given Lubinda had been moved to Foreign Affairs.

The new Minister of Tourism actually Information, Broadcasting and Tourism is Fackson Shamenda. Fackson Shamenda was moved from the Ministry of Labour. He was active in the Unions for many years before becoming a politician.

The only report I can find about our new Minister on the internet is when Parliament first opened and Fackson Shamenda entered the Chamber without a tie. The speaker of the house: Certainly the member is not in order. I urge him to find immediate remedial measures.
Fackson Shamenda left the Chamber laughing to return a few minutes later with a tie in place. At least we know that he has a sense of humour.

Given Lubinda promised to do the bungee jump next time he came to Livingstone. Lets hope Fackson Shamenda will take up the promise.

Then there were ten …

The Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) in Zambia has had an influx of new orphans over the last few months – a sad reminder that poaching is on the increase in Africa. In fact, 2011 saw a heavy toll with ivory seizures on the up including an estimated 23 tonnes of ivory confiscated en route to Far East markets representing c.2,500 elephants.

Melanie Shepherd, CEO: The innocent victims of these vile crimes are often left deeply traumatized and require intensive care and support to help them recover. Our aim is to support the EOP team in the rescue, rehabilitation and release back into the wild of these amazing animals but we need your support to make this possible.

Sichifula Game Management Area

Game Management Areas in Zambia are buffer zones around the National Parks and have mostly been used for hunting. They are leased out to hunters for the season, a quota being given for available species to be hunted. Over the years it is alleged that quotas have been ignored, poaching has been rife, with the result that many of the GMAs are now defunct.

Sichifula is a GMA to the south of Kafue National Park and is stunningly beautiful. It used to be a preferred hunting block because of its wildlife; now though it is no longer viable.

In an article this week it was reported that squatters have been allowed back into Sichifula GMA. 8,500 people will be allowed to settle in there.

Zambia has around 30% of its land set aside for wildlife and conservation. It is, admittedly, a rather large proportion of its land, especially when we know that population growth is out of control. For me, we are on a downward spiral if we dont make a long-term plan for the future of our people. And our long-term future depends on the health of our environment.

People need food, so providing them with land on which to farm is essential. But subsistence farmers who do not have access to education produce children who will also be subsistence farmers in their turn. Without jobs and education the people have no chance to better their lives and those of their children.

Zambias protected areas can form the backbone of Zambias economic recovery. But it needs a long-term plan. To allow subsistence farmers onto prime land to kill the animals and destroy the environment for the sake of planting some mealies will only add to Zambias degraded areas. Surely there is a better way forward for Sichifula?

Good publicity for Zimbabwe

The Montreal Gazette chose Zimbabwe as one of their top travel trips for 2012.

Youll go on walks, take morning and night drives and canoe on this 15-day camping safari that tracks lions, rhinos, elephants and more in Hwange and Mana Pools national parks. Canoe expeditions, which include fishing, leave at dawn. Geography ranges from semi-desert to river islands. This trip was one of National Geographic Traveler magazines 50 Tours of a Lifetime 2011.


New Stamps

Botswana has recently launched some new stamps illustrated by local artist, Jacob Disele. The stamps depict white rhinos and are endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, WWF.

Jacob Disele is rightly proud of his achievement. No other Motswana artist has received recognition by such an international organisation like WWF.

The drawings were taken from rhinos in the Mokolodi Nature Reserve and Khama Rhino Sanctuary.

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